The 2018 edition of the World Cup is only days away from kick off and we here at the RSL Soapbox are getting pumped. Listen, we get it. This sucks in the most brutal, no silver lining, sort of way that the US national team will not be participating. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the tournament for the shiny, suspenseful spectacle that it is. So while you might be confused as to which nation you should be cheering for, we have you covered.
We are breaking down the teams that we will be keeping a close eye on, and who might just win it all. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or favorite picks in the comments below! Lastly, at the very bottom of this article is a link to our RSL Soapbox World Cup bracket challenge. Follow the link, enter the code, and compete against your fellow fans and writers.
Who I’ll be cheering for: My heart and soul belong to the US national team, but a number of my family are from Madrid, Spain and since my very first World Cup experience I have been cheering for La Furia Roja. The first player to ever capture my imagination that didn’t wear a US crest was that of Fernando Torres in the 2006 World Cup.
Why they’ll win it all: Spain is so deep. Like Germany, they could put together 2 or 3 squads that could compete at a World Cup level. They went the distance in 2010 to win their first ever World Cup. Andres Iniesta provided the lone goal against the Netherlands to propel Spain to World Cup glory. Returning in 2014 Spain absolutely fell on their faces. They had a horrible tournament, losing their opening match to that same Netherlands 5-1, then suffering through a 2-0 loss to Chile, before beating Australia 3-0 to finish the group in 3rd place.
Spain is talented and they are looking for revenge. They also have the luxury of a fairly light group stage involving potent Portugal, and two minnows in Morocco and Iran. So the group stage shouldn’t be a problem. On top of that, they will have arguably the best keeper in the world in David De Gea, and two center backs that have no fear of playing physical in Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique. In the midfield they have David Silva, Thiago, and Sergio Busquets who are all seasoned vets and great at keeping possession in the tiki-taka way. Up top they have the likes of Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, and Diego Costa.
Spain has an embarrassment of riches and a chip on their shoulder the size of Brazil 2014. Plan on them hoisting their second World Cup in only 8 years time!
After the United States was eliminated in 2014, my support moved to the country of my ancestors, and the Germany National Team. “Der Mannschaft”, as it’s known in Germany, has several of my favorite non-MLS players from FC Bayern Munich, and my ancestry is half-German, so they’ve always been a team I admired. Watching them destroy Brazil, and then seeing Mario Götze score the extra-time winner against Argentina for their fourth World Cup was thrilling, and four years later they’ve reloaded with young talent like Timo Werner and Joshua Kimmich. I think they’re still the strongest team in the tournament, and I’m hopeful they’ll become the third back-to-back winners, and first since Brazil in 1962.
Who I’ll be cheering for: l’m following and supporting two countries for this World Cup. It’s a really different feeling to support a country other than the US, but mistakes were made. I’ll be supporting England and Germany, in that order. I always enjoy any sport more if I pick a side, so even if my ties to those countries aren’t super strong, I like rooting for someone.
I’ve picked England for a few reasons. The first being I have a good deal of English heritage, specifically on my mom’s side of the family, but some on my dad’s too. I’ve also been to the U.K. twice, so I have a strong affinity for the place. I’m also a Tottenham Hotspur supporter, and England will be captained by Harry Kane this summer in Russia. The team will also feature Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli, and former Spurs player Kyle Walker, who broke our hearts (please, Kyle, come home). There’s a good chance that three or four Spurs players will be in the starting 11, so even in the dark absents of the Premier League, I can still watch some Spurs favorites playing together.
The reason I’m following Germany is mainly heritage. My dad’s side is strongly German, thus my last name. I’m hoping cousin Tommy does as well this World Cup as he did in 2014. I feel less passionate about Germany, but they’re such a fun side to watch that I hope they make a deep run. My Thomas Müller World Cup kit is in the mail as I write this.
Why they’ll win it all: England will win because they’re the scrappy underdogs that, in living memory, have always been less than the sum of their parts. But Gareth Southgate just might be the man to bring this squad together to reclaim the game the invited. Dele and Kane combining will blow away the rest of the world.
Germany will win because they’re Germany.
Who I’ll be cheering for: I am Dutch. I would like to support the Dutch. I am very sad that I cannot support the Dutch.
In the World Cup I always like to support African teams. Especially countries that deal with a lot of ethnic conflict and domestic strife. Even when that’s not the case, football is often really the only way out of poverty for lots of people in that area of the world, so to see folks be able to show off to the world their skill and in some cases even unite varying groups domestically that is always cool to see. So while Senegal does not currently deal with the same level of current genocidal ethnic violence that countries such as Sudan/South Sudan, The Central African Republic, Burundi, Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and others, they will definitely be the team that I am rooting for. In a world where the World Cup is structured as is, and exists in a process of attempting decolonialization, the presence of African Countries in such a tournament is performatively a de-colonializing act. Additionally, I’ll also throw my support towards Denmark, Morocco, and Australia considering that they all feature players from Feyenoord. I’ll also be rooting for Iceland because wow, how about that 2016 Euro run. Point is, I like the World Cup, I like the World Cup a lot. Quit your day job with me?
Why they’ll win it all: They won’t. Period. End of story, none of them will win.
With the USMNT out, I’m more or less indifferent to other teams, I’ll look forward to seeing the ‘big teams’ play (Brazil, Germany, Argentina, France, England, etc...), but I won’t be cheering for any single team. Sure I’ll hope that the ‘underdogs’ get some good results, but I’m really just going to watch because it’s the FREAKING WORLD CUP!! I will watch as many games as I can catch (given the time difference), and it doesn’t matter to me who’s playing. I just want to see some really good Football - or Soccer for us heathens in the US :-)
Who I’ll be cheering for: While I’m more likely to play a true neutral role this World Cup, I have a team I’m cheering for, all the same: Nigeria. It’s not for any particularly huge reason — it’s just that one of the members of my team at work is from Nigeria, so I’ll be joining her in the fun and agony of the World Cup. Other than that, I’m cheering for red cards. Lots of red cards.
Why they’ll win it all: You know, crazier things have happened in the world of sport, but let’s be honest: It’s a long-shot. Like, an incredible long shot. But I’d love to see Nigeria beat a couple high-profile sides and just turn the world upside down a bit. Also, everyone wins when there are lots of red cards, so that one goes without saying.
Who I’ll be cheering for: Ok, I’m English. You’ve probably noticed that so of course I will be cheering for England. However, we England fans know how international tournaments work and we’re all ready for that eventual moment where we crash and burn. The real thing we are excited for is how badly we’re going to fail, are we going to have a 2014 style messy disaster where we turn up to the world stage and collectively soil ourselves or a 2006 style slow burn where we all start to believe we can do it before plodding into failure in slow motion? Who knows, that’s the fun on these tournaments! We’re the only nation I know of that actively wills it’s team in it’s national papers before we’ve even kicked a ball! It’s started early this year too with our young unproven players being told they aren’t good enough to wear the kit before they’ve even had it on....
Why they’ll win it all:
And yet, there’s a good chance this time we might get closer than before. Southgate has embedded himself in the England program more than anybody and he knows the national game inside and out. He’s made bold choices in terms of personnel instead of falling back onto the same old people who’ve proven they can’t hang. We’ve got young players who are hungry for success and have a chip on their shoulder thanks to that media coverage I mentioned before. So who knows, we might get the mega rare total collapse from England in the final!
Who I’ll be cheering for: I’ll be cheering for Mexico and Spain. I grew up cheering for Mexico because of my family. The first World Cup I remember fully watching and cheering for Mexico was the 1998 World Cup in France. One of the players on the squad was Raúl Lara (not directly related), and I thought it was really cool that I shared a last name with a soccer player playing in the World Cup.
Spain has been a favorite since EURO 2008. I just fell in love with their tiki-taka style and was a big fan of David Villa. It also helps when you know you have Spanish descent from your dad’s side to cheer for them.
Why they’ll win it all: I don’t believe Mexico will win the World Cup, though. I think they have the potential to go past the Round of 16, which is where their World Cup journey has ended in previous World Cups. They also are in a tough group with Germany, Sweden, and South Korea. The game versus Germany will determine their fate, for sure. Germany always has a solid squad and are coming in as the defending World Cup Champions. No one really expects Mexico to beat Germany, and it would be huge if they did, but if they finish with a tie, it can set them up an easier path to second round.
Spain, however, is one of the favorites to win this year’s World Cup. They’re not quite the team that won the 2010 World Cup, but they’re a far better squad than the 2014 one. Spain should not have a problem getting into the second round in a group of Portugal, Iran, and Morocco. Spain also has depth in every position and leaders in Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos, and Gerard Pique, and if Diego Costa has a good tournament and scores goals, I think Spain will win this year’s tournament. And really, it’d be sweet to see Iniesta cap his international career with a major win.
World Cup Bracket Challenge:
As promised, here is the link: https://bracketchallenge.fifa.com/bracket/leaguejoin/dcb8da50
And here is the league code: dcb8da50
Choose wisely my friends and enjoy the best international tournament in the world!